£1.9m lifeline for Highland history attractions in the face of pandemic

Three key Highland heritage sites have been given a £1.9m lifeline to see them through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Braemar Castle is one of the landmarks to benefit from the £1.9m funding lifeline. PIC: Rob Purvis/geograph.org
Braemar Castle is one of the landmarks to benefit from the £1.9m funding lifeline. PIC: Rob Purvis/geograph.org

Braemar Castle, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre and Strathnaver Museum, which tells the history of the Highland Clearances, will share the funds freed up by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The money will be used to improve all three sites and insure employment is protected during the health emergency.

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It comes as Highlands and Islands Enterprise reports that tourism is one of the worst sectors hit by the the pandemic with visitor spend down by up to £564m as a result.

Caroline Clark, Director Scotland of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The road to recovery is going to be extremely challenging, and we are doing all we can to help people, communities and places through this crisis.

“We are pleased to be able to support the rural economies that we have funded today. We applaud the hard work and commitment of the communities involved, particularly given the challenges they have had to face over the last year, and hope it will allow them to look ahead with renewed optimism.”

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Dundreggan Rewilding Centre at Glenmoriston near Loch Ness will be the first of its kind in the world and is due to break ground at its 10,000 acre estate in a matter of weeks.

It has received just over £702,000 to allow it to press on with its work to protect and expand important fragments of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest.

Visitors will be able to explore the wild landscape, discover Gaelic culture and learn about the estate’s 4,000 plant and animal species – including several never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland. It is expected to attract 50,000 visitors annually.

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Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive Officer of Trees for Life, the organisation behind the project, said: "We are delighted to be weeks away from breaking ground at Dundreggan and see our vision for the Rewilding Centre come to life over the next year.”

At Braemar Castle, a 17th Century stronghold which has strong links to the Jacobite risings, has been given £555,900 to pursue an urgent programme of repairs.

Key to its future is the replacement of the crumbling harling which is both unsightly and puts the castle collection at risk of water damage.

Simon, Blackett, Chair of Braemar Community Limited, said: “The Castle is embedded in the community and is an important recreational and learning asset. Since taking over in 2007, the community have steadily carried out improvements and have tripled visitor numbers. This award will allow us carry out urgent repairs and build on what’s been achieved so far.”

Strathnaver Museum at Bettyhill in Sutherland has been given £650,000 to enhance the way it tells the story of the Highland Clearances. It played a key role in the turbulent period, with the pulpit where the minister read out eviction notices to tenants still in place.

Sitting on the North Coast 500, the museum has seen a surge in visitors in recent years but the former church which houses the museum is no longer fit for purpose.

Fiona Mackenzie, Project Manager, said: “After a very challenging year this funding has made a huge difference to our organisation.”

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